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The online Plaza Mayor for those who love Spain, and those who blog about it.

Category Archives: Cities in Spain


The Camino

May 4, 2013 by Luann Edwards

A rite of passage, the Camino de Santiago leads modern-day pilgrims along a path from France into northern Spain. I find this fascinating, that millions of people a year would venture, on foot, to the city where St. James is reputed to be buried. Some of them walk the trail  because they’ve found religion, and others because they’ve lost their way. More, still, walk the Camino because they need to redefine their lives and this feat of mental and physical endurance is said to do that.

 

Some day, I would like to walk the Camino. While I haven’t set a date – or accumulated enough vacation time from work – I have begun to research this journey through a handy Google blog search. I’d like to share a few pieces with you.

 

Blogger Paul Agostinelli writes on the Zephyr Travel blog: “Whatever your spiritual orientation, the Camino invites you to become present with your life on earth, and in the universe.”

 

Camino de Santiago (Photo from Zephyr Adventures.com)

Camino de Santiago (Photo from Zephyr Adventures.com)

 

The Camino means many things to many people. Agostinelli also writes, “One of the best things about the self-guided walking tour of Camino de Santiago is that while the route is well-mapped, the “journey” is full of surprises, and your experience will be completely unique to you. Our pilgrimage was full of wonderful, unplanned moments: the sun glistening magically off a babbling creek; a herd of cows being led by an ancient peasant farmer blocking our path; the young South Korean girl traveling the Camino alone who teared up telling us about her travels; Rosa from Puerto Rico by way of New York, who bought us several rounds at the hotel in Palas de Rei; the amazing polpo (octopus) on the playa in Melide….. and so many more. I had an amazing time on the Camino and will definitely remember it for the rest of my life.”

 

Photo from www.fourjandals.com

Photo from www.fourjandals.com

 

Walking the Camino is also official business, and certain credentials are required if you’d like to be an official pilgrim. On his blog, travelsofanewchristian.com, L. Reese Cumming writes, “First, one must obtain a Credential at the beginning of the trip.  This may be obtained at one’s own church, and at a church or tourist office along the route chosen.  As one travels they have this ‘passport’ stamped by where they might sleep at night, the local church, a tourist office or town hall.  It is most important to obtain these stamps as they are reviewed by the Pilgrim’s Office; upon arrival in Santiago de Compostela.  And this leads us to the second document required to be an official pilgrim.”

 

Credentials. (Photo from www.travelsofanewchristian.com)

Credentials. (Photo from www.travelsofanewchristian.com)

 

By far, Cole at fourjandals.com shared the most beautiful photos of the blogs I’ve searched. He also shared a quote that resonated with me, “While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.”  Cole, thank you for sharing your pictures and your story!

 

Photo from www.fourjandals.com

Photo from www.fourjandals.com

 

 

 

Posted in Cities in Spain, Culture, Curation |

Once de Marzo, y Córdoba

April 7, 2013 by Luann Edwards

His name was Enrique, and he was carrying a man-purse. I was very happy to see him as he met me outside of the AVE station in Córdoba, since without him I would have been completely lost.

I’d awoken that morning to a beautiful, strong sun peering through the shades in my hotel room at the Westin Palace. The meeting I had organized in Madrid had just wrapped up, and I was free to explore for the day. It would have been easy to stay in Madrid and visit some of my favorite haunts – I could get lost in Plaza del Sol and shop for days. But it seemed like a terrible waste to be in Spain and not explore a bit more of it before I had to leave.

My local contact had sent me some suggestions that we felt I could cover in a day via the AVE train: Segovia, Sevilla, and Córdoba. I had spent some time in Segovia in the front half of my trip, and Sevilla was a place to which I’d wanted to dedicate more than a few hours. So, Córdoba it was.

I was to board the train in Madrid’s Atocha Station, which was a short walk from the hotel. Since I’ve never traveled through that station before, I often think of Atocha in connection to the terrible event on 11 March 2004.  As I walked into the interior of this grand station, I offered up a silent prayer to those who lost their lives. (I do the same whenever I hear La Oreja de Van Gogh’s Jueves, which was also written in tribute to those same souls.)

Traveling for the first time alone by train in a foreign country is a rite of passage. It was disconcerting to try to navigate the large, busy station, with my limited Spanish skills and all of the baggage that comes with being from somewhere else. Added to that was the solemn feeling I had as I recalled the significance of this station, which helped me to feel at once somber and watchful. I felt comforted, though, as I passed through the security x-ray on my way to my train and reminded myself that it was certainly more secure than the Providence to NYC train I often take. While the boarding experience was a bit different for me as an American, I’d already had a printed ticket to expedite the process.

tarifa

If there is a train that runs between your city of origin and desired destination in Spain, then you must consider taking the AVE instead of flying. (Here’s a great article from the Guardian by someone who feels the same about the train ride on the AVE. And another blogger has written a great review of his trip via the AVE train.) I found my assigned seat on Coach 8, and was handed a pair of free earbuds by an attendant. And then I relaxed into the almost-two hour ride to Córdoba.

 

The interior of the train was modern and clean, and I had plenty of room to stretch out. The seat next to me was unoccupied, which was probably due to the midday timing of the train. Instead of taking out a book or watching the free movie, I just gazed out the window at the passing scenery. The fast-moving view from the window was mostly hilly, and very green. As opposed to flying, an experience akin to boarding a tube on one end and emerging, almost untouched, on the other – I felt like I had experienced every kilometer of this earthbound journey.

Before long, we arrived into the airy sunlit station at my destination. And while I felt proud that I had made the solo train trip without much help, I was happy to let another person do the driving. Enrique – a professional tour guide – met me as I exited at Córdoba station, and I followed his lead as he showed me his city over the next two and a half hours. As for touring Córdoba: I’ll save that for another time, but as a down payment, below are some photos.

 

 

Posted in Cities in Spain, Transportation |

When she plays piano in the dark

March 24, 2013 by Luann Edwards
Segovia Pianist

Segovia Pianist

It was a beautiful, dry July night in Segovia. We were writers, all women, all travelers, walking back to our hotel as slowly as possible, trying to breathe in everything about our last night in the city. It was late – almost 23:00 – but the sun hadn’t fully set. And as we rounded the corner, a woman – a girl, really – placed herself in front of the keyboard and began to play. (2011)

In some of the other blogs I’ve located online about Segovia, many of them describe day trips to Segovia. I supposed that, if I were a tourist, I would probably squeeze in a day in Segovia on my way to Madrid. In fact, I did exactly that in 2010 – I spent ten hours on a tour bus, rushing through the sights of Segovia and Avila before going back to the capital for a business meeting.

But now that I’ve spend more than a day in Segovia, it seems like a great sin to rush this beautiful city into one day. Do that, and it will never have a chance to creep into your soul. And travelers, you must go to this great walled city and absorb every tiny piece of it.

In 2011, I spent ten days with 12 travel writers in a workshop hosted by Brown University. We “lived” in the hotel Los Linajes, which was built into the hillside, just inside of the walled city. I tried to write about the experience on my blog, but  I barely scratched the surface – and two years have already passed. The tiny pieces of the Segovia puzzle took many days to come together. If I’d only had a day, I would have never noticed:

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  •  i.e. universidad, a converted convent, with a nativity scene carved at the top. Ferdinand and Isabella could be seen kneeling beside the infant Jesus. (They were born several hundred years too late, but the monarchs wanted to be a part of it anyway.)
  • How the sun never quite felt like it set; the sky was always a deep, dark navy with a glow at its edge from twilight until dawn.
  • The most delicious cake, traditional ponche con natilla, that is from Segovia. I have never forgotten the crunchy-sugar top.
  • The impromptu wedding in the plaza mayor; the bride was dressed like a pinup model, and she arrived on the back of a Vespa. So did their 30 guests.

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  • A question for the community: When have you ever taken a day trip to a town that crept into your mind, and you wish you’d stayed for longer?

 

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Posted in Cities in Spain |